Sunday, November 29, 2015

An Excuse is Like A...

The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.--Andrew Carnegie

I've said this before and I'll say it again. I will never win a race. I started running too late in life. By the time I decided to become a serious runner I was already in my 30's. I didn't have the time to train appropriately and even if I had the time, I didn't have the knowledge. These are not excuses; these are uncomfortable truths that competitive people must confront before advancement can occur.

Know thyself comes from the ancient Greeks and unfortunately, in far too many instances, knowing who you are is getting further acquainted with the omnipresent mediocrity. Once people realize that they won't win a Gold Medal at the Olympics, the excuse now becomes lying to oneself. One might say, I can take a day off, it won't have an effect or what different does it make?

No one is going to sit out there and make sure that you go for your run. The only person that you have to answer to is yourself. Marathon champions, Olympic champions, National Champions all have inherent motivation to win a championship. They are motivated because their country will be so proud of they win. Someone's school will make you a legend if you win a championship. So yes, with that motivation, everybody is doing that extra little bit. There are no practices skipped.

But what happens when you finish at number 25,000 out of 50,000. Perhaps you finish 7 hours after you start. What is there to motivate you to do more? Maybe  we need to redefine what a win is. Most runners will never win an event. The idea that a win won't happen, a championship won't happen seem to be a disqualifying occurrence. One of the hardest things to do is to get yourself out of the door and run for no particular reason but enjoyment 

The battle lies within oneself.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rough Patch

Tough times never last. Tough people do.--Ralph

November has been my toughest month in at least 9 months. I feel broken down and my times have suffered. I've gained some weight and aside from that, the weight that I've gained doesn't feel good. I've only logged 2 long runs this month while last month I had 8 total.

I know it sounds like whining but running pervades so many aspects of my life that I feel incomplete without it. Running has become my therapy. It is 90% of the exercise that I do. Running is pretty much my only hobby. I don't have a gaming system to pass time. I generally don't go out for drinks and since I've moved to Atlanta I've watched less sports. I'd rather eat glass than watch the Falcons, Braves or Hawks. I'm either working, running, or hanging out with my wife and kids. 

I PR'd October 4th in the Half Marathon and a few weeks later I PR'd at 10 miles. Since then I've not raced so I may be having like a post PR let down. Theoretically I know that I can't have a record every run and likely the upcoming half on Thanksgiving will not be a PR because I don't feel as though I'm going for it. This is probably a breakdown/plateau and the additional days off may actually help me physically but psychologically I need more days on the road.

All of that crap said, I'm not the wait until tomorrow type of guy. I'm still in Novemebr and I'm going to approach every day as though it's another day for improvement. See you out there. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Goals? You Want Goals? I've Got Your Goals Right Here!!!

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.--Confucius

I speak about goals all of the time. I talk about how to set them. I talk about actually setting goals. I speak about the execution behind goal setting. A person once said to me that I am always trying to teach. Initially I was annoyed and then I realized that this person was right. Albert Einstein once said that, "if you can't explain something simply then you don't understand it well enough." There is another old adage that goes one learns best by teaching. By constantly teaching what I know, and hearing myself speak about topics, I learn more about it. 

Ideally I want to become what the Japanese would call shokunin or what Germans call a meister. To do the same thing over and over again and trying little by little to get better every day. So yes, I constantly teach about goals and I've gotten better at setting my own. Because of it. Now that I know how to set and execute them; here they are.

I will run 12 marathons in 12 months in 2016 and the goal is to run them all under 4 hours.

Before 2016, I want to PR the 10k at 48:00. I know, that's not fast but it's faster than I've ever been.

I want to qualify for Boston on 2017 to run it in 2018. 3:15 is the time I need.

I will complete my first Ultra Marathon in 2017 to Qualify for Eastern States in 2018 to qualify for the lottery for Western States in 2019. Ideally I will get in by 2021... I'll be 45.

Here it is. Now you know it. I must accomplish it.

What are some of your goals?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Breaking Down Game Film

Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.--Sun Tzu

Over the years I've learned a lot from playing so many different types of sports. Many of the principles that I've learned in sports apply to other aspects of life. Business managers preach teamwork as religion and who would blame them with the results garnered from effective teamwork. Simply playing a sport tells recruiters for universities and jobs that you have learned things that make you a better candidate than others without a sports background.

The part of sports that I have used effectively in many aspects of life, I learned playing football for 13 years at 3 different levels. Every Monday after the weekend game we would go into a dark room and watch film of that game. After a while we would go into smaller groups and break down game film, which means looking at every detail and addressing what was done well and what needs work. There is no hiding from what the film says you did. In the middle of the game at full speed one can't always tell what is going on but in slow motion, reverse, fast forward and the like, there is no denying what transpired.

So the trick here is to try and figure out what breaking down film means for the runner. Although I'm not suggesting anyone does this, I look at as many metrics as possible in order to gauge my performance. I wish I could quantify feel but I haven't figured it out yet. I decided to take out time over approximately 8 week sessions, where I would focus on different aspects of my running so I could tweak and research as well as make discoveries about the sport and myself.
The breakdown was as follows: July-August I focused on recovery and injury prevention. I learned how to manage my body daily. I studied nutrition in order to eat the best food for the next run. You'd be surprised how your diet changes once you realize the effects of what you put into it. September-October I decided to do something about speed. I incorporated tempo runs, Fartleks, and intervals into my workout after researching the origins of said workouts. I set some speed goals to give myself a reason for the torture of running at lactic threshold. Finally in November and then December I will shift my resources to learning more about flexibility and strength. I imagine I've been doing lots of things incorrectly so this 8 weeks I will right the ship.

I've experienced some success with my focus shifts. I've been able to gradually increase mileage from 15-25% every month and I've not taken a day off due to injury. I PR'd in October after a 7 year stretch without one. Ideally this last 8 weeks will lengthen my muscles and strengthen my body.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's So Easy to Quit on a Treadmill

Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter.-- Arnold Schwartzeneggar

I hate treadmills. I actually hate them with a passion. I've been a runner for 15 years. In that time, I'm relatively certain, I do not have more than 10 treadmill runs. Nike+ said I have I've 530 runs. That's not including a period when I didn't really track my runs. It doesn't include runs from September 2000 to 2006. In short, I have done lots of runs. The overwhelming majority of said runs have been outside.

There are countless reasons that I hate the treadmill. When I finish, I feel like I had 7 shots of some awful spirit and I am also walking on the moon. I feel restricted. I honeymooned in Marrakech, Morocco and it was mostly desert. In order to get my runs in without dying in the Sahara was a treadmill. By week's end, my hips were sore from restrictive running. There is nothing to look at on treadmills. I don't want to spend 6 miles staring at my ugly mug, or the ugly mug of some dude next to me. The clock and distance on the treadmill haunts me like Freddy Krueger haunts dreams. I can actually hear a digital clock tick... It's creepy.

Even before the first mile all I want to do is get off of that thing. It feels like a torture device. You know when you're a kid your parents make you stay inside as punishment. This feels like punishment. In the 19th century, treadmills were actually used as punishment. As I run on this contraption I continuously ask myself, do I stop now, how about now, how about now?

After 2 times in 2 weeks of wanting to quit on the treadmill and telling myself how much I hate it, I now look at it as a challenge. I once hated running anything over 100 yards. Right now I don't have the stamina or endurance or conditioning to run without honking about tapping out. It is something I must now conquer.

Monday, November 2, 2015

This is the New Normal

I have no fear of failure, provided I use my heart and head, hands and feet - and work like hell.-- Charles Merrill

Life is hard. I could probably end the story right there and everyone would get it. Here's the kicker though. I don't think life is that hard. I believe in general, people are pretty soft. Because of this belief I have mastered the art of blaming myself for any setbacks or mishaps. Folks love to point the finger. So do I... At myself.

I am not saying that all things in life require toughness only. There are obviously places and situations in the world that I will not pretend to understand or relate to. I'm speaking simply on the reason people usually give for not accomplishing a goal... Life is hard. Goals are very important to the runner. Almost as important as shoes, a runner without a goal will find themselves on the way to a new hobby. 

Sometimes when runners hear the word goal they cringe. I run simply because I love to do it. Some folks run for different causes and reasons and the idea of having a goal sounds less like an escape and more like the job or life that you were trying to escape by running. On the surface no one wants to turn their leisure or recreation into this goal oriented, goal-setting lifestyle.

I love when running is simple and every runner has goals. Although the goals may be masked they are goals nonetheless. So for the people that purport to not set goals, here are some examples of runners' non-goal goals. 

  1. I just don't want to get injured.
  2. I wish I could stay out there a little longer.
  3. As long as I don't finish last.
  4. I need discipline for my diet.
  5. Let's see if I can get better.
This is all code for having a goal. I will translate now:
  1. I need to work on a few things in order to stop getting nagging injuries. The goal is to run when I want without unplanned days off due to injury.
  2. The goal is to condition your body to comfortably run longer every so often. People that start off with a mile want to run 3. 
  3. I have to work on my speed and endurance to ensure that I have a good showing in my upcoming race.
  4. Consistent runners tend to stay away from crappy food because when they run on crappy food... they have a crappy run. No pun intended.
  5. Let's face it, anyone who walks outside today and runs a 12 minute mile or a 6 minute mile certainly wants to run an 11 minute mile and a 5 minute mile respectively. The goal is to be better this year than last year and next year to be better than this year.
This is where the softness comes in. People would rather not openly set goals because they fear failure in front of an audience. That fear can oftentimes become the driver behind success. But if the audience doesn't exist... neither does the driver.